Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aber Falls

I took the kids for a walk this morning just to answer that nagging doubt, are Aber Falls freezing? The temperature has been below freezing here in Llanfairfechan for the last few days but as you can see in the photo they are not! There is some ice either side but it needs to get a lot colder yet. Ah well! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snowdonia Conditions

The ice is building nicely with ice down to the road now. It is still all a bit thin for climbing but with the temperatures due to stay cold for the next few days, perhaps even into the middle of next week, it looks as though things could be good for the weekend. I was out on another rescue on Snowdon last night as a direct result of people not being properly equipped so would recommend carrying full winter kit including crampons and axe. Have fun!

Just as an add on to this post I walked up into Cwm Idwal this afternoon and the Idwal Stream is frozen. Friends had climbed it today but reported it as being very thin. The appendix and others have not yet formed but are getting bigger. Llyn Idwal was partially frozen. It looks like we have a classic high pressure temperature inversion with summit temperatures consistently higher than the valley temperatures. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bouldering on the Orme

It has been a beautiful few days here in Snowdonia with consistently cold weather, blue skies and sunshine. Last night we had two rescues on Snowdon and the water courses were all frozen. It was below freezing as a I drove home at about 10:00pm. Yesterday afternoon I took the boys to the Orme and we enjoyed a spot of bouldering and a cliff top walk in the beautiful weather. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day Rescue on Crib Goch

Christmas for me is always a great time as we have 3 kids (plus another on the way!) and this year we had a lovely day at home. The little boys got new bikes for Christmas so we were on the seafront first thing in the morning before I prepared the Christmas lunch. Just as we had finished and I was about to load the dishwasher the pager went off, perfect timing! Five men were crag fast on Crib Goch so the team were deployed to help. We walked two off that had turned round of their own accord and the chopper lifted the remaining 3. It was a beautiful afternoon to be out and plenty of folk were enjoying a walk on the mountain. You can just make out the helicopter if you look carefully in the top of the photo. We were back in time for tea and the Doctor Who special! 

Monday, December 22, 2008


Erik, Kirsten and I headed over the Carneddua today. We started on Pen-yr Ole Wen and went over Carnedd Dafydd and Llewelyn in thick cloud and warm drizzle all day - not very wintery! We did however manage to look at the fitting and use of crampons, do some scrambling and all in excellent navigation conditions! 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Welsh Winter Skills Course

I have been joined for two days by Eric and Kirsten for a Welsh winter skills course. Its a bit of shame that they were not here last weekend as we could have had some snow and ice to play on but would it then have been a Welsh winter weekend? We did find the only snow in Wales I think by heading into the back of Cwm Cneifion and getting up high but it was 7c above and the snow was completely sodden. Nonetheless we valiantly looked at the various uses of an ice axe and destroyed the small patch of snow we found. We also looked at some scrambling and navigation skills and had a very enjoyable day, especially as the Warden and the tea shack staff at Idwal Cottage car park were all handing out festive chocolates!  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wet & warm in Snowdonia

The temperature has risen overnight and it was 10c in the Idwal Cottage car park this morning and raining heavily. I walked up into Cwm Cneifion where it was looking very washed out. The main gully lines remained but the buttresses are looking black and the ice was running with water. Imagine what a good freeze could do though! 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mountain Rescue Training

I am back in Snowdonia today and have spent the day on a Mountain Rescue training exercise. Several years ago I ran an off road driving school and so my rusty services were pressed into action today to provide a day of driver training for my colleagues in the Llanberis team. We spent the day looking at the skills that we require to get the most from our vehicles with sympathy for the environment we all love whilst assisting stricken walkers and climbers. 
We had a dump of snow in the night and the snow line has dropped again as you can see in the photo of Snowdon that I took this afternoon. Tomorrow looks like it will be a nice day but then it is going to get warm in the middle of the week so it is unlikely there will be much snow left for the weekend. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Invernookie, Cairngorms

It has been a gorgeous day in the Cairngorms today with crystal clear blue skies and sunshine and very little wind. It looked as though a few folk had called in sick as the crags were busy for a Thursday in the middle of December! I was joined by Alec a good friend of mine and we climbed Invernookie (III, 4). The snow was generally quite good but a little crusty in places, the route was nicely rimed up as you can see in the photos and it was well below freezing all day with temperatures in the car park of -3c. We then strolled across for a look down the Loch Avon basin which is also shown in the photos, there were several parties heading in this morning and the Loch was frozen. Its looking a fairly wild weekend which is a shame as the conditions are improving all of the time. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cairngorms - The Runnell

Jason and I headed back into Sneachda today. It has remained very cold and we had a similar day to yesterday weather wise with some fairly strong Northerly winds. We climbed the Runnell, a great grade II route that had some good snow ice in it. Jason lead the approach to the route as a pitch of grade 1 snow climbing and then we progressed his climbing skills from yesterday with some movement coaching and hard skills development. Another great day out with plenty of spindrift for authenticity! 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cairngorms, Goat Track Gully

I am in the Cairngorms this week making the most of the winter conditions. I have been joined for today and tomorrow by a friend of mine, Jason, who has done some winter walking and wanted to do some winter climbing. We walked into Sneachda and did refreshed basic crampon and axe skills, avalanche awareness and then climbed Goat Track Gully. This is a great grade II route that we climbed in 4 pitches. It was very windy on the top, we headed down the Goat Track and then spent some time looking at buried axe belays, buckets seats and snow bollards before retiring to the cafe. A great day out. It is very cold with the freezing level at around 700m. The snow is thin but the ground is well frozen, the crags nicely rimed and some reasonable ice about. Parties were climbing on Fiacall Buttress and the Runnell but poor visibility meant it was hard to see what else was being done. 

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rescues on Crib Goch

The Llanberis Mountain Rescue team has had a fairly standard weekend with a call out Friday night and Saturday night to Crib Goch. On Friday the stranded walker was assisted down by the team and last night a passing member of the public helped a stricken walker down. We were despatched to the landing zone for a helicopter pick up but were not needed which is always good news. The team rely entirely on contributions from the public and you can read more here

Intro to Navigation

I have been joined today by Jon, Rachel, Kath, Dave, Nichola and Dawn for an intro to navigation course. We enjoyed a crisp frosty morning and headed up into Cwm Treggalan on Snowdon. The day stayed dry and bright and we have had a lovely day and good company.  There has been a definite temperature inversion associated with the high pressure over the last couple of days so the valleys have been colder than the summits. 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

SARDA Training Day

I have been out with SARDA Wales today in the Llanberis Pass. I had a lovely morning hiding for the young search dogs and then a great afternoon with the adult dogs whilst they searched a larger area for multiple bodies. These dogs are all trained for Search and Rescue and the handlers are all volunteers. SARDA is a charity and relies on donations, you can read more here. 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hill Skills & Navigation

Andy and I headed into Cwm Idwal today and then up into Cwm Cneiffion, across the Gribin Ridge base and into Cwm Bochclwyd. The freezing level has risen over the last day or so and the snowline has risen. The photos show the Devils Kitchen and the Nameless Cwm. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Navigation & Hill Skills Course

I have been joined by Andy for a couple of days looking at navigation skills and general hillwalking skills here in Snowdonia. The freezing level rose today, we only got as high as about 600m but the ground was no longer frozen at that level and the snowline had visibly lifted. Having said that there was still plenty of the white stuff at higher levels and the freezing level is forecast to drop again over the next couple of days so there could be some more good winter climbing this weekend on North facing crags over 800m. 
Today we headed up to Llyn Lydaw from Pen y Pass and spent the day looking at navigation techniques and some steeper ground around the Horns. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mountain Leader Training Course

I have been working for Phil George today on a Mountain Leader training course. The day was a leadership day looking at how to manage people on steep ground, what equipment a leader should carry and the numerous challenges a leader faces in the mountains. It was cold all day and we had a couple of small hail storms.  We spent the day in the Llanberis Pass and the tops are still looking very wintery. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Winter Climbing, Snowdonia

I have had a great day out today with friends Baggy and Ian climbing a winter variation of a summer climb that was first climbed on Saturday as a winter route and we headed up for the second winter ascent. The first ancentcionists gave it grade IV, 4 and we felt that it was the top end of that. The ground was frozen from the car park with plenty of ice about The first pitch was a left to right groove that had some good gear but was balancy and technical. The second pitch was an enjoyable grade 3 romp and the final pitch took us up a narrow buttress to a steep headwall. It stayed dry all day and we enjoyed some nice ice in the gully leading to the foot of the route. It looks set to stay cold so should be a good week.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

AMI Workshop Staff Training Weekend

I am a member of the workshop staff for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI). Throughout the year we run a range of workshops for people that have completed their Mountain Instructor Award (MIA) training and are preparing for assessment. The MIA is the highest level of instructional qualification for teaching rock climbing and mountaineering in summer conditions in the UK.
This weekend I have been at Plas Y Brenin on a workshop that brought together the workshop staff and the staff from the national centres of Plas Y Brenin and Glenmore Lodge. We spent the weekend sharing ideas, looking at common problem areas for trainees and exploring training methods. It has been a beautiful cold crisp and dry weekend with plenty of sunshine and temperatures barely above freezing all weekend.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Snow on the mountains

I have been out on my bike this afternoon and it has been glorious. The mountains have a lovely dusting of snow and it has been bright and sunny all afternoon. I rode the Marin trail, a 25km mountain bike trail near Betws Y Coed. There are big climbs, big descents, exhilliarating single track and stunning scenery. You ride through Gwydyr Forest which is one of the largest forests in Wales. The singletrack has some very tight, technical, rocky and open ground to contend with, a lovely couple of hours out.

The forecast for the weekend is looking great:

Forecast for daylight hours for Saturday / Rhagolwg ar gyfer oriau'r dydd Dydd Sadwrn
Weather/ Tywydd
Sunny intervals and scattered sleet or snow showers these mainly over the west of the area where the odd heavier one is possible. Another cold start with frost in the valleys and again the risk of some fog or mist patches.
Visibility, cloud base / Gwelededd, Gwaelod y cymylau
Good becoming moderate in showers and poor in any early morning fog or mist. Broken cloud with bases around 750 metres.
Wind, temperature, freezing level / Gwynt, thymheredd, lefel rhewi
variable 5mph/minus 2 Celsius /500 metres

So no excuses, get out in the mountains and enjoy the weather - pack your axe and crampons!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am back home now as I have work this weekend. I spent the morning catching up on admin and then went for a run this afternoon. I parked at Pen Y Pass car park and headed up the Miners Track and down the PYG track. Snowdon and Lliwedd were beautiful in the late afternoon light. It had been raining all morning so the mountain was positively gleaming in the shafts on sunshine that were breaking through.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Its got warm

I walked into Lochain today but after a night of warm temperatures and rain it was all looking a little black! It is due to get cold over the next few days with a period of sustained cold weather over the weekend so the existing snow should get hard and the ice should fatten. It could be good!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fiacall Ridge & Goat Track Gully

No photos today I'm afraid as the camera has packed up on me. I think the cold has got to the lense. I headed up the Fiacall Ridge today which was absolutely plastered in snow and rime ice. It was pretty breezy and for most of the ascent it was raining. The cold temperatures meant that as soon as the rain hit my clothing it turned to ice so I was soon encased in a suit of ice. Thats probably what did the camera in! The Fiacall Ridge can be grade 1 or grade II dependent on the route taken. I did the grade 1 option then came back down to the start of the difficulties and did the direct grade II option. I then headed down to the bottom of the Fiacall Buttress and started up the Couloir. A grade II/III route winds its way of the left hand side and I climbed to the chockstone crux before deciding it was a bit thin and down climbed to the Coire. I then headed over to Goat Track Gully (grade II) which was great value. The turf was frozen, there were patches of snow ice and the crux provided a great ice pitch that would normally be covered in snow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Climbing in the Cairngorms

I have got this week off so have headed up to the Cairngorms for a few days to play in the snow. It was all a bit last minute so I could not find anyone else with a week off work and have come up on my own.
Today I headed into Coire an t-Sneachda. There is snow down to the road in Aviemore but the snowplough has been hard at work and the road to the ski centre car park was clear. The walk into Sneachda was hard work with no visibility and post holing snow. I headed up to the base of the crag and was amazed at the sheer volume of snow, all I could see was white, although the weather meant I could only see about 5 metres ahead of me! I climbed Crotched Gully (Grade II) which was very thin with no ice in the gully. I abseiled off after about 100 metres rather than brave the wind torn plateau. There were teams on Red Gully, The Runnell and the Mess of Pottage and ice had formed on some of the buttresses but there is loads of unconsolidated snow lying about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mountain Leader Refresher Course

I have been out with Tim today on Snowdon as he is preparing for his forthcoming ML assessment. We parked at Pen Y Pass and did some micro navigation around the horns and towards Llyn Llydaw and then looked at security on steep ground on the side of Crib Goch. We used did a bit of emergency use of the rope and then descended to the Pyg Track in high winds, looking at a bit of confidence roping along the way. We dived into a cafe for tea and then did a couple of hours of night navigation this evening. The weather has been moist but without any rain as such, just a constant moist airflow!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I have recently applied to be a trainee dog handler with SARDA Wales. The Search And Rescue Dog Association (Wales) is a voluntary organisation responsible for the training of Rescue Team Members and civilians to become Handlers of air scenting Search Dogs, enabling them to search for missing persons, in the Mountains, lowland, rural and urban areas of Wales. I spent the day today with the team training at the foot of Snowdon and had a great day out. The work that goes into these dogs is incredible and I met a lot of very welcoming and enthusiastic handlers, dogs and bodies!

Whilst I was out with the dogs a friend of mine, Baggy, took over the intro to climbing weekend. Unfortunately Ian had to leave early so Baggy took Simon to Tremadog and gave him an intro to multi pitch climbing getting loads of routes done in some nice afternoon sunshine.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Intro to Climbing Course - Tremadog

I was joined today by Simon and Ian for an introduction to climbing. We headed to the Upper Tier at Tremadog today to avoid the worst of the weather and had a good day looking at the skills involved in single pitch climbing, abseiling and getting a variety of routes done. It was drizzly all morning but cleared up this afternoon. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clogwyn Y Person Arete & Crib Goch

We have had a very pleasant day here in Snowdonia today. The rain has stayed away and we headed up the Clogwyn Y Person Arete, a great grade 3 scramble. We descended via Crib Goch and its North Ridge - a great mountaineering day out.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

North West Face Route, Cwm Idwal

I am running an advanced scrambling course today and tomorrow and have been joined by Michael and Steve. We had some pretty strong winds today so decided to keep off the ridges and the summits and headed up into Cwm Idwal to do this great grade 2 scramble. We then did an abseil off the top of the Idwal Slabs before the boys took over the sharp end in the gully leading to the Nameless Cwm. A great day out and no rain!